The True Dreamers
World #83, Arastia
And then there is Arastia. How bears that place a name like world? Its huddled pockets of flesh cowering from the dark light like lost children, cursed to band together but never know true leadership. A great catastrophe marks them from which no recovery seems possible—an old curse which I have not the time to investigate.
When an ancient portal master came here he marked it as a lush green world with much promise. Indeed the symbol above the old gate depicts green leaves and butterflies laying on river washed rocks, symbolizing excellent flora, fauna and the presences of water. He opened those first portals and the races teamed in. Then the portals broke in centuries past. It is only now we have regained the knowledge to weave the dimensional passageways. As portal master it fell to me to reconnect this world to All World’s Hall.
The great cities all lie in ruins. Most castles have more cobwebs then living folk. Isolated, each community is extremely afraid of strangers and fights continual to survive. What kind of place needs mercenaries to guard a farmer’s crop? Lesser versions of our guilds thrive here. Like backwards cousins they inbreed and multiply, offering limited protection and the safety of a street gang. Still they are what passes for leadership in these communities and it is their councils that allow any knowledge to be passed down. It is ironic that the control they created to keep out the darkness has kept them in candlelight thereafter.
There are ancient treasures here in the rarely explored ruins. A well outfitted group might recover much. But at night the dead walk, joining the Orcs, Ogres, Dark Elves other grim things that make survival unlikely. There is still beauty amid the ruins but it is far and few between. Mostly the land suffers the pain of her people.
And how have our cousins faired since the time of the breaking?
Arastia’s Elves and Eladrin act as if nothing has happened, walking the enchanted forest path and ignoring the plight of the sickening world outside their flowerbeds. For they have cast out their dark ones, expunged themselves as a species, or so they believe. In their groves it is light still—a brightness frozen, stilled like a dried flower. They are a picture of what was but not what can be. Pathetic, it pains me to call them kin.
The Dwarves hoard what remains of their precious past in mountain holds. Their homes little more than self-made dungeons, locked away from the darker world above. Death nips at them and one day it will bite hard. They give a good fight but they have no hope in their hearts, looking backward to the glory of ancient days.
The Gnomes have no homeland of their own, parasites on their Elven and Human friends. There is so little to say of these curious beings. How is it they play their games and spin their useless craft whilst the world withers around them?
And what of Humans? The numbers of their walking dead swell, a tide spilling over, a disease gnawing on this world. Is there no limit to their ambition? Ever man is a king and every woman a queen in their own hearts. If life ends here it will be their finishing. Human’s mess stains this place. Still, the Northern barbarians have spirit. Though some succumb to evil, most know their place in the whole of creation. Perhaps they will teach their learned cousins a lesson in post-apocalyptic survival.
So is there anyone left to praise? Well one pocket of both growth and hope remains. Overlooked, in valleys and in the nooks, Halflings remain unaffected by the curse. Their cheer is not a facade. They welcome strangers and defend their homes with the same gusto as their endless chats. What good times I spent in Arastia were in the company of the middle folk.
As for me, my survey, such that it is, is done. This place is but a stop and not a happy one at that. I have woven the council portal and placed the bindings. I have other worlds to check and reconnect. I must be moving on. I wish I had better news but my recommendation is to mark this world unsafe for portal travel and check back in an Eladrin generation. I add to this world’s symbol black hands, signifying evil’s domination of this realm.
Portal Master’s Note: Use utmost care when placing portals here. If you place one near a town the townspeople will flee through it and clog All World’s Hall. If you place it in the open or in a ruin you are likely to face a horde of undead or worse come nightfall in Arastia.
Vanrake Ustellin Vorthanon, 217th generation, Eladrin portal council, Initiate of the invisible light, planeswalker 2nd rank and portal master of the hundred realms.
Excerpt from “The Manual of Worlds”, the collected works of the Gray Council (Pages 1172 through 1176)